The National Golf Foundation put together some fantastic data regarding the impact of COVID-19 on golf nationwide. You can find the report here.
As predicted in the last entry, as the pandemic curve continues to go up, so do the number of golf course closures – some by directive, others by choice of ownership.
Also rapidly going up are other forms of closure – playgrounds, ball fields, walking trails, wilderness areas, and beaches. Yes; golf is much easier to operate per the strict social distancing mandates of current directives. We know that. We have made sure that policy makers know that. And as a result, golf is positioned to come back on-line much sooner than many of these activities – a case successfully sustained by efforts of the SCGA and its allied golf community partners.
It’s time to move forward and begin thinking about how to best assist the Southern California golf community weather the closure storm and beyond to the difficulties associated with ramping back up.
The SCGA is now busy trying to figure out exactly what is in the 1,000-page stimulus/relief package passed by Congress and signed by the President Friday night. The World Golf Foundation’s (WGF) lobbying arm (We Are Golf) has three Washington lobbyists busy picking through the bill to see what of a golf specific nature is in there and plans to issue a comprehensive report that we will share as soon as we have it. There is one piece of good news they’ve already discovered. In this emergency relief package, golf businesses are not categorically excluded as has often been past practice, most recently after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. This makes golf businesses eligible for the $367 billion in the package for small businesses (less than 50 employees). There is a separate, albeit less generous program, for larger businesses and golf is categorically included in that program as well.
With last Thursday’s announcement of 3.3 million unemployment insurance claims, it appears that dire predictions regarding short-term unemployment weren’t dire; they were spot on. Whether the unprecedented number of unemployment claims presages a deep recession is anybody’s guess. But what it does guarantee is that California is going to burn through the $21 billion rainy day fund it took 6 years to acquire in very short order, even with the $10 billion the state anticipates receiving in direct federal assistance. As you may have read countless times in countless publications, California’s tax receipts are heavily dependent on both the income and capital gains of its affluent citizens. When markets tank and recessions reign, the state’s tax receipts plummet considerably more than in most states. Throw in unfunded pension liabilities and the costs associated with fighting the COVID-19 crisis, and California’s budget situation could be on the edge of a rapid collapse, which will dredge up all sorts of ugliness that will affect governments and public services down to the most local of levels. Golf of all varieties, but particularly of the municipal variety will be affected, and the SCGA is proactively planning on how to tackle these threats if and when they arise.
Please know that the SCGA’s effort to provide you with information and analysis regarding COVID-19’s impact upon golf facilities is not made to distract you from what should be the overriding concern of everybody at this moment – health, safety, and community. Stay safe. Stay vigilant. Be ever mindful of family and community. And remember that these things always trump the exigencies of any moment.
SCGA long ago succeeded in persuading Southern California’s cities and counties to include golf along with playgrounds, hiking trails, beaches, ball fields and other open space activities capable of hewing to the social distancing mandates of various executive orders, including the Governor’s statewide order. That is why all of these activities, including golf, were provided in the public sector the days following the issuance of the Governor’s and other orders, many of which (e.g., County of Los Angeles) were considerably stricter than the one issued by the Governor. The private sector for the most part followed that lead. If the cities and counties that wrote these orders were interpreting them to permit golf on the courses they owned, that was all the evidence a privately held golf property needed to follow suit.
After 2-3 days it became apparent that these open space activities had not been able to practice the social distancing practices mandated in all the orders – not just golf, but all of them. That is why on Sunday access to the various wilderness and hiking/walking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains were ordered blocked, playgrounds locked down, ballfields made off limits, picnic areas proscribed, beach parking lots closed (they’re working on closing the actual beaches right now), and yes, publicly owned golf courses closed. At the same time (Sunday) Governor Newsom strengthened his statewide order to limit the list of “essential services” allowed to remain open for business. Golf had been on that list qualified only by counties’ ability to tweak the list according to local circumstance. The San Francisco Bay Area’s 6 counties did just that a week prior with the issuance of a joint “shelter in place” directive.
Thus, the cascade of closures is upon us until such time as the pandemic wave crests and it becomes acceptable to again participate in the outdoor activities of which golf has successfully established itself. SCGA, in collaboration with the state’s allied golf organizations is working to develop a very comprehensive set of protocols for the purpose of coming back on line at the earliest possible moment – that and ensuring that during closure golf properties can continue to use staff to protect them from trespass, encampment, vandalism, and theft as well as maintain them so that they retain their playing surfaces.
The SCPGA surveyed Southern California golf course operators to determine what actions courses are taking during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following courses reported being closed:
While there is ample information regarding the COVID-19 crisis, there is little of a golf-specific nature, and nowhere to go for those who seek answers about how the various directives and orders issued in recent days affect golf clubs and golf facilities. What follows is an attempt to cure that deficit.
Last week, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order directing Californians to stay in their homes except as needed to maintain certain infrastructure functions deemed “critical” by the federal government. The problem: The Governor’s list of 16 critical infrastructure sectors was so expansive as to encompass practically the entire California economy – a set of exceptions that excepted almost everything.
This left it up to the state’s cities and counties to take the next steps necessary to bring practical order to taming the COVID-19 pandemic curve. As a result, they created a patchwork of directives that in some cases allowed for golf under certain social distancing protocols and in other cases prohibited it. Not surprisingly, confusion reigned in the immediate aftermath of these orders.
As some of the localities began to bring a little order out of the chaos, Governor Newsom significantly amended his “critical” list of “essential infrastructure functions” to make it much more specific, prescriptive, and restrictive – a set of exceptions that now excepted only certain things. No longer does there seem to be room for continued golf, no matter the conditions or circumstances of play.
In addition, during the same 48-hour period in which the Governor cracked down, cities and counties throughout the state began to close playgrounds, ball fields, hiking trails, beaches, and general recreational areas – making it no longer an atmosphere conducive of translating the outdoor virtues of golf into a persuasive argument for allowing it under current conditions.
The California Alliance for Golf, an organization comprised of the state’s allied leadership organizations (including the SCGA), is working to secure further clarification to ensure that golf courses can protect their 100 + acres of exposed property from trespass, encampment and theft and maintain them properly while closed.
It is important to remember that any attempt to provide clarity regarding COVID-19 is a moving target – a snapshot in time of a rapidly evolving situation. SCGA will try to keep shooting photos and sending them to you as the picture changes.
This update is a summary of a much more detailed report released yesterday to the industry insiders, leaders and allied associations that subscribe to SCGA Governmental Affairs Updates. For a copy of that report, please click here.
The SCGA will continue to post updates on our website as the situation progresses.